Slow-cooker turkey breast over kale

As a spin-off to my slow-cooker turkey breast soup blog, I want to share a recent recipe I’ve been having fun with.

Like the soup recipe, I still coat the defrosted turkey breast in pesto and cook it in the slow-cooker. What’s different on this one is that I throw in whatever vegetables I have on hand (I’ve done onion and different squash varietals, red peppers, carrots, etc.), add in just enough broth to help their flavors mingle and keep them from sticking, then, I serve them on top of fresh kale. The heat from the meat and veggies wilts the kale just enough.

I add a little Israeli couscous for my son since he needs the additional carbs, but we don’t.

Using spinach or kale as a rice or pasta substitute is a great, easy way to completely revamp the nutritional profile of your meal. Between the fiber and the overall nutritional makeup of dark, leafy greens, you’ll stay full longer, and avoid unnecessary starches. You don’t have to completely change your diet to eat more cleanly; just make easy swaps like this one.

This meal is great all-around because it’s ready whenever we finish our whirlwind day and are ready to eat, and it’s family friendly. Eating well as a rule is easier than trying out a fad-diet. It’s just too hard to make a special, healthy meal for one person. You need options, like this one, that everyone can enjoy. Eating well should taste really good.

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5 Meals to get you back into your pre-holiday jeans

Over the past week, we’ve spent a lot of time cooking, and even more time eating.

What’s more?  It’s only the beginning of our holiday season eating extravaganza that ends with New Year’s resolutions meant to undo the damage.

That rattling in your closet is all of your buttons shaking in fear of what you intend to consume over the next month. 

I’m not going to ask you not to eat at parties or enjoy the many holiday treats that will surely show up at your home or office this season. Instead, I’m going to suggest some meal options for the days in-between the butter, cream cheese, sugar, mayonnaise, icing, eggnog-laden gatherings.

Below are five meals you can feel good about. Not only are these dinner ideas healthy and tasty, they are also easy. You’ve already slaved over a turkey. Now you’re off the hook for the rest of the year.

After the holidays, I will absolutely help you get back in shape even if you break every rule in my book; but, success will come sooner and easier if we can temper the damage on the front-end.

What’s for dinner?

1) Meatloaf (using oatmeal instead of breadcrumbs) with cauliflower mash instead of taters

For the meatloaf, use 1 lb of lean ground meat, 2/3 cup of oatmeal, 1 egg, 1/4 cup of chopped onion, 1/2 tsp of minced garlic, 1 drained can of diced tomatoes, 1 Tbsp of worcestershire and 1/2 tsp of pepper. Mix and bake at 350 for 40 mins, top with Heinz 57 and bake for an additional 10 mins.

For the cauliflower mash, steam or boil fresh or frozen cauliflower until tender, then process with your favorite mashed potato ingredients.

2) Lentil sauce over quinoa

Cook 1/2 lb of sausage or ground meat in a pot with 1 tsp of olive oil. Once the meat cooks, add 1 can of lentil soup and 1 can of Rotel. Heat through so some of the liquid evaporates, and serve over quinoa.

3) Taco salad

Cook ground meat with 1 tsp each of the following: chili powder, onion powder, paprika, garlic salt, cumin and red pepper. Add 1/2 cup of diced onion and cook until translucent. Serve over torn up lettuce and top with grated cheddar, diced tomatoes, diced peppers, a dollop of plain yogurt (greek is best because the flavor mimics sour cream) and a sprinkle of crushed tortilla chips.

4) Steak and salad with blue cheese dressing

Marinate steak in 2 Tbsp worcestershire, 1 tbsp dijon mustard, 1 Tbsp of orange or apple juice and 2 tsp pepper for at least 30 mins. Grill to desired doneness, and serve with romaine, diced red onion and a dressing made of the following: 1/2 cup of cottage cheese, 1/2 cup of yogurt, 2 tsp chopped onion, 1/2 tsp minced garlic, splash of red wine vinegar and 1 Tbsp of blue cheese – process till smooth and salt & pepper to taste.

5) Roasted chicken and veggies

Heat oven to 400F. Mix juice of 1 lemon, 2 Tbsp olive oil, 1 tsp pepper, 1 tsp sea salt, 1 Tbsp freshly chopped herbs (basil, thyme, rosemary or sage will work) and 1 tsp minced garlic. Baste chicken breasts, and use the rest to toss with vegetables of choice (broccoli, carrots, onion, fennel, sweet potato chunks, bell peppers, cauliflower, etc.). Bake chicken and vegetables for about 20 minutes, or until done.


BBQ pork loin and cucumber, black bean, quinoa salad

Here’s a delicious, healthy recipe for you. It’s full of the things your body needs, and light on what it doesn’t. This dish has protein, loads of veggies, whole grain, citrus and fiber, while budgeting fat, sodium and sugar content. The bit of kick is an added bonus for your metabolism and circulation, if you can take the heat.

This meal is easy to make and convenient to prepare since you can make the salad ahead of time and let it chill while the pork marinates, leaving only the final step of grilling the pork loin. I knew I’d be in the gym all day, so it was nice to have almost everything done already when I got home. We will definitely be adding this one to the dinner rotation.

Pork loin rub

  • 0.3-0.5lb/pp pork loin

Ingredients below are per each pound of pork loin.

  • 2 Tbsp chili powder
  • 1 Tbsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp garlic salt
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • Dash of cayenne pepper
  • 2-3 tsp olive oil (just enough to make a paste)
My husband looked up how to grill the pork loin in a way that keeps it juicy and tender, and it came out perfect. He seared it for three minutes, or until it has black grill marks on either side, then turned the grill down to med-low to finish cooking (time will depend on thickness). Remember that it will continue to cook a little when you remove it from the heat, so take it off and let it rest for about 3 minutes before cutting. Use the rub recipe below at least 2 hours prior and let it marinate in the fridge, but bring it back to room temperature before you grill it.

Cucumber, black bean, quinoa cold salad

  • 1 chopped cucumber
  • 1 chopped shallot
  • 1 chopped, seeded red pepper
  • 1 diced, seeded tomato
  • 1 chopped avocado (optional)
  • Juice of one lime
  • 1 can rinsed, drained black beans
  • 1 cup prepared quinoa
  • 2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 2 tsp agave nectar or honey
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp Tony Chachere’s creole seasoning
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp pepper
Cook the quinoa according to package instructions and set aside to cool. Rinse and drain canned black beans. Chop up all of your fruits and veggies and add them to a large bowl with beans. Mix all of your liquids and spices and pour them over the veggies and beans. Finally, stir in the quinoa, cover, and put in the fridge to cool until ready to serve.
Serve pork with salad. The hot pork right off the grill is great next to the cool salad. Enjoy!

Recipe: Jerk pineapple pork chops with black beans, lime yogurt and arugula

This recipe combines sweet-heat with some cool lime yogurt and peppery greens. It’s pretty much a party in your mouth. Although, unlike some parties, this one won’t leave you with a hangover. Low fat, low carb, high fiber, high protein, lots of vitamins and even some calcium means you can feel good enjoying every bite.

 

Jerk pineapple pork chops with black beans, lime yogurt and arugula

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 1 can pineapple chunks in 100% juice
  • 1 can crushed pineapple in 100% juice
  • 2 stalks of scallions chopped
  • 2 tsp dried thyme
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1.5 tsp allspice
  • 1/2 de-seeded habanero / 1 de-seeded jalapeno / 1/2 tsp cayenne (choose your heat)
  • 4 bone in pork chops
  • 1 tsp each salt and pepper
  • 1 can black beans
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 1 tsp agave nectar or honey
  • 1 small container of plain yogurt
  • bag/bunch of arugula
Instructions:
In food processor, pulse crushed pineapple, scallions, thyme, garlic, allspice, and habanero/jalapeno/cayenne. Sprinkle pork chops with salt and pepper on both sides. Pour canned pineapple chunks (with juice) into a 9×13 glass baking dish, add pork chops and top with mixture from processor. Cover and marinate for 2-4 hours.
Preheat oven to 375/190. Bake uncovered for 35 minutes. Turn off oven, but don’t remove for 5-10 minutes. Use that time to finish your plate prep as directed below, then take it out.
In a small bowl, mix yogurt, lime juice and agave/honey.
To each large salad/pasta bowl (or on a dinner plate) add a handful of arugula, 1/4 of the black beans and 1/4 of the yogurt mixture. Top with one pork chop and some pineapple chunks. Enjoy!

Recipe: Eggplant (noodleless) Lasagna

Eggplant (Noodleless) Lasagna

You know what most people are missing in there diets? Vegetables. (You were hoping I’d say pizza or chocolate, right?)

Somehow, vegetables get a bad wrap when we’re kids, and then we have to learn to love them as we get older. In my opinion, if you don’t think you like most vegetables, you just haven’t had them a way you like them.

Think of vegetables the same way you think of chicken. You don’t like chicken every way it’s served, but you probably like it at least one way.

The great thing about vegetables is that you can pretty much stuff your face with them and, assuming they aren’t fried or doused in butter, your body will only benefit.

From the recipe below, you might conclude that I’m into the Atkins diet, but you would be very wrong.

Our adult bodies don’t need as much starch as our bodies did when we were kids because we aren’t in building-mode anymore; however, carbohydrates are an amazing energy source and should not be completely omitted from your diet.

My approach to carbohydrates is to give them a supporting role rather than a leading role in meals. If I’m having a sandwich, I move all the insides over to one half of the bread. If I’m making pasta, I use a handle full of pasta to a pot full of meat and veggies. Using less noodles isn’t an option in a dish like lasagna because they are part of it’s structure; but, eggplant, zucchini or even portabello mushrooms are sturdy enough to make a delicious, healthy substitute for noodles.

Aside from the positive nutrition exchange going from noodles to veggies, the switch out also adds flavor and will fill you up faster. Noodles on their own don’t have much flavor, and your body doesn’t have to spend much time processing them during digestion. Vegetables, on the other hand, are full of fiber and flavor on their own.

Below is the exact recipe I used to make this dish last night. I tend to cook based on what’s on hand as opposed to planning out all my recipes. I never know what’s going to look fresh before I head to the store, so I just stock up on meat, vegetables and cheese, and then go from there. The kitchen is like my chemistry lab, but I get to wear cute aprons instead of a lab coat and goggles.

Variations for this recipe include, but are not limited to:

  • doing a quick pan-fry with your eggplant slices instead of roasting them (be sure to blot, and use minimal breadcrumbs/flour – better yet, use almond flour);
  • using zucchini/portabellos instead of/in addition to eggplant;
  • adding other vegetables (mushrooms or carrots would be yummy);
  • using mozzarella on top instead of or in addition to the parmesan;
  • using another low-cal, low-sugar type of marinara – I only had 1/2 cup of prepared sauce in my fridge, so I had to add the other ingredients;
  • omitting the meat.

Eggplant (Noodleless) Lasagna

    • 2 large eggplants
    • 8 oz ground meat
    • 1/2 cup tomato-basil / marinara sauce
    • 1 can tomato paste
    • 1 can diced tomatoes
    • 1 cup ricotta
    • 1 cup cottage cheese
    • 3 egg whites
    • 1 cup parmesan
    • 1 Tbsp. dried Italian herbs
    • 1 cup frozen spinach (partially defrosted)
    • 2 tsp minced garlic

Preheat oven to 400/204.

Slice eggplant into 1/4 inch thick slices. Heavily spray a cookie sheet (you might need more than one) with olive oil. Spread your eggplant along the pan(s) and spray the top side with olive oil as well. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake for 25 mins, flipping the eggplant halfway through the time. I spray the eggplant rather than tossing it in oil because eggplant is very absorbent and can soak up more oil than you want instead of being coated evenly when tossing.

Cook your ground meat, and add it to the tomato sauce, diced tomatoes and tomato paste. Stir and cook to simmering.

Combine ricotta, cottage cheese, 1/2 cup of grated parmesan, 3 egg whites, herbs, spinach and garlic.

Spray your lasagna dish and layer as follows: Half the tomato sauce mixture, layer of eggplant, ricotta mixture, eggplant, sauce, remaining cheese. If you have enough eggplant, you can do more layers and just ration the other mixtures accordingly.

Bake for 30 mins, or until the sauce is bubbly and the top cheese is a bit toasty.


Recipe: Butternut squash ‘quinoa’ risotto

I’ve been on a quinoa kick recently, and last night I tested it as a risotto substitute. I’m happy to say it was a very easy success.

I was able to get my hands on a butternut squash last week, so I used that and some arugula in the risotto. All told, we had a healthy serving of veggies, protein, calcium, fiber and a little healthy starch and fat.

The sweetness of the squash and the pepperiness of the arugula paired very well, and the parmesan added creamy deliciousness without fighting the other flavors. I added a little salt and pepper during cooking, but it may not even need it. The ingredients came together to take care of all of it perfectly.

We served the risotto next to a couple lean ribeyes. My husband might be the huge Jimmy Buffett fan of the house, but I’m the one with the carnivorous habits. Last night was great though because he really loved his steak, too. I’ve switched up my marinade, and he mentioned how much he liked it, and how it didn’t need any A1 sauce, multiple times.

We were both proud members of the clean plate club last night.

For the steak marinade, I mixed equal parts good balsamic vinegar and worcestershire sauce with a little dijon mustard, a small squeeze of agave nectar (could also use honey) and garlic pepper. I only had about 3 hours to marinate them, but it proved to be enough time for all the flavors to meld.

This recipe serves 4 as a side, or 2 as a vegetarian meal.

Butternut Squash Quinoa Risotto

  • 2.5 cups cubed butternut squash
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove minced
  • 1/3 cup diced onion
  • 1 cup dry,uncooked quinoa
  • 1 large handful / half a bag of fresh arugula
  • 2.5 cups chicken broth
  • 3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan

Cube and steam squash until it is almost mashable.

In a large skillet, combine oil, garlic, onion and quinoa over low-medium heat. Stir continuously  for about 4 minutes, or until you can smell the quinoa starting to toast. Add squash and arugula, along with about 3 turns each of  your salt and pepper grinders. Turn the heat up to medium, and continue stirring for another 2 minutes. Add half of your broth, and cook until all of it is absorbed. Heat the remaining broth and add 1 cup more of it to the dish. Stir regularly, and begin mashing up the squash with your wooden stirring spoon. Leave just enough unmashed to give it a little texture. Once all of the broth is absorbed, turn the heat back down to low, add the cheese and stir. Finally, add the remaining (hot) 1/4 cup of broth and stir until the risotto is creamy. Serve hot, and enjoy!